Conditioning pp 459-482 | Cite as

The Metencephalic Basis of the Conditioned Nictitating Membrane Response

  • John W. Moore
  • John E. Desmond
  • Neil E. Berthier
Part of the Advances in Behavioral Biology book series (ABBI, volume 26)


The classically conditioned nictitating membrane response of the rabbit has evolved into a useful model system for neurobiological studies of associative learning. Converging methodologies from behavioral, physiological, and anatomical approaches indicate key roles in conditioning for the limbic system, especially the hippo-campus, and the brain stem. This article presents evidence that the metencephalon contains neural elements essential for generation and performance of conditioned responses in this preparation.

Recordings of multiple-unit activity from chronically implanted microelectrodes during conditioning in alert animals suggest that the dorsolateral pons at the level of the trigeminal nerve contains populations of neurons which are a substrate of the conditioned response. Lesions in this region virtually abolish conditioned responding while leaving the unconditioned response to eye shock intact. This observation suggests that components of the reflex arc of the unconditioned response, including rostral elements of the sensory trigeminal system and of the accessory abducens nucleus,are not crucial for learning. Instead, associative convergence between conditioned and unconditioned stimuli appears to occur in an adjacent interneuron system of the supratrigeminal reticular formation.


Unconditioned Stimulus Conditioned Response Abducens Nerve Oryctolagus Cuniculus Nictitate Membrane Response 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • John W. Moore
    • 1
  • John E. Desmond
    • 1
  • Neil E. Berthier
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstMassachusettsUSA

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